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Fantasy Stars: Bottom of the Third (Round)

It's the final edition of Fantasy Stars, which I know brings tears to my eyes and yours. Dry 'em off, though, because we at RotoAuthority are kicking off our Player Rankings in just two days! 

After a whole week of waiting, here are the last of our fantasy stars. Check out the top half of the third round here, and last week's bonus column here. As always on Fantasy Stars, the Average Draft Position (ADP) numbers come from MockDraftCentral and come from 154 qualifying drafts. The stats shown with the position players are the Big 5:  AVG/HR/R/RBI/SB and IP/SV/K/ERA/WHIP for relief pitchers. (No starters this round.)

Bottom of the Third (Round)

31. Craig Kimbrel, RP         ADP 33.23

32. Hanley Ramirez, SS     ADP 34.44

33. Jason Heyward, OF     ADP 36.45

34. Allen Craig, 1B              ADP 37.51

35. Starlin Catro, SS           ADP 37.52

36. Ian Kinsler, 2B             ADP 37.88

31. Craig Kimbrel, RP  62.2/42/116/1.01/0.65 (Saves, in bold, replace wins here.)
Kimbrel is the only elite relief pitcher and he's the only one that you can justify taking anywhere near this early. He isn't a tier ahead of all other relievers, he's several tiers ahead. Between his otherworldly excellence, and the paucity of other dependable closers with the track records to keep their jobs through rough patches, Kimbrel really stands out. Just look at those ratios, let alone the whiffs. He gives you half of a great starter's K's in under a third of the innings. If you play in a standard league, the kind with an innings cap, he's a great choice here.

If you're in a weekly league...I'd actually pass. The low innings that are a strength with a cap are a weakness without one, just as they are for all mortal relievers. Yes, he's the best, but in head to head, you don't necessarily want the best. At least not in the third round.

A final note of caution comes in just two words: Eric Gagne. Remember how good he was? Yes, Kimbrel strikes more guys out, yes his ERA and WHIP make it look like 1968...but great relievers flame out in a way that other players don't; they're subject to a lot more luck than other players, plus the usual injury cautions that come with pitchers. Even the best reliever in the game carries a lot of downside.

32. Hanley Ramirez, SS .257/24/79/92/21
Remember the days when Hanley used to arm-wrestle Albert Pujols for the number-one overall pick? I do, and maybe Hanley does too. After a horrific and injury-marred 2011, he bounced back pretty well in 2012. Not all the way back to the top--leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of all who drafted him with such hopes, I'm sure. Considering his numbers in line with those of other shortstops, not to mention the fact that a whole year in Los Angeles' lineup instead of Miami's, and I could see Ramirez inching up closer to his glory days. Not all the way there, but closer.

He won't be 30 until after the season and he made it up to the Majors nice and young, which gives him a better-than average shot of staying productive longer. I like him a lot as the number-two shortstop in the game, but if you draft him and he's better than he was last year, don't thank me--thank my wife, because it was she who first looked at Hanley's numbers with an objective eye and suggested a rebound to me. I was gonna take Starlin Castro....

33. Jason Heyward, OF .269/27/93/82/21
Heyward isn't 24 yet and he's already one of the best outfielders in baseball. He's got the track record and the prospect-pedrigree to get better, and he makes a very nice upside play here in the bottom of the third round. He's the third Braves outfielder being drafted, but he's got a great chance to be the best next year. If he inches the average up just a little, he becomes a 5-category player, since he added a bit of speed to his game last year. (I'm telling you, all the cool kids steal bases these days.) 

That same average represents his risk factor, but it isn't a huge risk. If he plays exactly as he did last year, this will be only a small overpay. How many already-good, former top-prospects don't get even better at age 23? Not enough to make me think twice about drafting Heyward here, or even higher.

34. Allen Craig, 1B/OF .307/22/76/92/2
Allen Craig is 28. He's not elderly, by baseball's standards or those of the real world, but he is too old to have been a prospect last year. He burst onto the scene like one, with 22 homers and a great average in just 514 PA. He'll go into next year as the Cardinals' first baseman, and he'll have some good hitters around him. But he's 28, and he turns 29 in the middle of the season.

I'm not ready to relegate him to the Quad-A status of a half-year wonder--he really does seem better than that--but he's being drafted closer to where the elite first basemen are than those with serious question marks, and he has those question marks. His position isn't as deep as it once was, and drafters are reaching for production there, but this is a reach too much. At this point in the draft, you're better off skipping by first base, taking from another position, and grabbing a similarly risky player a few rounds later. Or, you could just take the much safer and still excellent Billy Butler. Could Craig be better than Butler next year? Sure. But Craig could be terrible next year, and Butler almost certainly won't be. 

35. Starlin Catro, SS  .283/14/78/78/25
Right here you can read what I thought of Castro two weeks ago, in spot 30. My feelings haven't changed. He's a great player, an elite shortstop, and he isn't as good as Jose Reyes. He's a good enough choice here, but only if Reyes and Ramirez are off the board. 

36. Ian Kinsler, 2B .256/19/105/72/21
Our own Mark Polishuk discusses the relative merits of Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia here, but I'll just look at Kinsler for the moment. First of all, look at his stats from year to year: is he a power hitter or isn't he? Is he a speed guy, or isn't he? I guess he's both, but with all the time he misses it's hard to be sure.

He's now had two full seasons in a row, which is weird enough, but this time his performance slipped badly, especially in homers and steals. If he's a 20/20 guy with a lousy average and a ton of runs scored, there are a lot of better second basemen. If he's a 30/30 guy with a lousy average and a ton of runs there's only one better second baseman. So who is he? I honestly don't know, but at 31 the former looks more likely than it ever has before. There's a lot of risk here, and there are several second sackers who have lower risk factors and lower price tags. No, Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, Jason Kipnis, and Aaron Hill don't have the upside that Kinsler has, but they won't cost you as much either.

Here's a re-ranked third round, for tradition's sake: Strasburg, Longoria, Ramirez, Gonzalez, Wright, Heyward, Upton, Kimbrel, Bruce, Castro, Kinsler, Craig.

Finally, several players fell out of the Fantasy Stars rankings altogether: Yadier Molina, Cliff Lee, David Price, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jose Reyes. I would definitely take Reyes in the third round (right ahead of Wright), but all the others look a lot more sensible in their new landing spots.

These rankings will change and change again before draft day, so keep mocking, and keep checking the rankings. Remember, though, that ADP won't let you read the minds of the other owners in your league. If he's your guy, and you're getting value, grab him now, even if ADP says he should still be around by your next turn. You never know who's having the same thought as you.

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